Fear and Victory

 
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“Come, children, listen to me;

I will teach you the fear of the LORD.”

Psalm 34:11

In our Christian walks, we may sometimes do a funny thing when times get tough. We’ll say something to the effect of, “It’s a pretty hard time for me, but you know what, Jesus has the victory and I am victorious because of Him,” before offering a half-smile and looking away or changing the subject. It is true that Jesus has the victory and it is true that we are victorious because of what He has done, but to stop at this is to deny the reality of our complete experience of life. We can get so wrapped up in our need to “live as victorious Christians” that we talk ourselves into a false overcoming; indeed, this kind of overcoming is the kind that might win the battle at the cost of the war. We mutter to ourselves that “Christ is enough for me,” and “Jesus is King, and He is on the throne,” all the while convincing fewer and fewer people until we fail to convince even ourselves that we are already victorious in the middle of our trials.

When we lack the proper fear of the Lord, we allow ourselves to depend on a false concept of what the victorious Christian life is like without embracing the reality that our victory comes from our ability to lay everything down at the feet of the Conqueror. Laying everything down requires that we know what we’re going through and that we can honestly confront it with Him, not before we come to Him. David gives us an example of how fear and victory come together in 1 Samuel 21:12-13.

The superscription of Psalm 34 reads: “Concerning David, when he pretended to be insane in the presence of Abimelech, who drove him out, and he departed.” In 1 Samuel 21:12-13, we see how David responds to his fears: “David took this to heart and became very afraid of King Achish of Gath, so he pretended to be insane in their presence. He acted like a madman around them, scribbling on the doors of the city gate and letting saliva run down his beard.” David lived completely in the fear of the Lord, and he did this by being honest about his present circumstance. When David was afraid, he didn’t swallow his fear and repeat to himself that God had the victory and that He would raise him up to triumph over King Achish—he didn’t need to. He feared the Lord more than that and gave even this moment into His hands, expressing his fear exactly as he experienced it. There’s a tension here between David’s submitting to the Lord’s sovereign will and his own experience of the reality that confronted him. Even though David submits to the Lord’s sovereign will, he also has the free will to act on his first-person experience and try to save himself out of fear; all the while, David knows that his life is in the hands of his Creator.

It looks like David responded out of the fear of man, but the truth is the fear of man might have led David to puff himself up and try to boldly overcome his fear. If David feared men—the same men who sung about him killing his tens of thousands—he would have been more concerned about his image than his testimony. However, mighty King David lays himself low before man and God, drooling and acting insane. If God’s heart was to save him, David trusted that He would. If not, he would still bless the Lord at all times, and His praise would always be on his lips. Oswald Chambers says, “The remarkable thing about God is that when you fear God, you fear nothing else, whereas if you do not fear God, you fear everything else.” When God’s sovereign will places (or allows) a terror before us, is it our place to tell Him, “Actually, God, I think You really meant to provide me with victory”? What God wants to capture in our hearts is a greater fear of Him and what He can do over our fear of all else; nothing else is useful in preparing our hearts for the victory He has in mind.

After David’s trial with King Achish was over, his response was not to say that he knew all along that he was going to make it out victorious. His response—which speaks to how real his fear was—was of relief and joyful praise of the Lord. He says, “I sought the Lord, and he answered me and rescued me from all my fears,” “This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him from all his troubles,” “Taste and see that the Lord is good. How happy is the person who takes refuge in him,” and “The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their cry for help” (Psa. 34:4, 6, 8, 15). David’s victory is not found in him slaying King Achish after he felt afraid; his victory was found in worshiping a God who hears the cries of the righteous and saves the crushed in spirit.

It’s okay to admit that we have worries and fears, that we are disappointed with our circumstances and long to no longer remain in our circumstances. In fact, you’re in great spiritual company if you can admit this—Abraham, Moses, David, Peter, and Paul all felt the same way. However, you can still honor and exalt the Lord when you naturally respond to your situation if you, like David, fear the Lord and know that “the righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, and rescues them from all their troubles,” and that “the Lord is near the brokenhearted; He saves those crushed in spirit” (Psa. 34:17-18). Our struggle is not with lacking faith in His victory; what we need to see is that we tell God what His victory in our life is supposed to look like. When we talk ourselves out of being brokenhearted and crushed in spirit, we assume a kind of entitlement to victory such that God has no way to work in us because we begin telling Him what He is like rather than fearfully submitting to His will for us. Sometimes, His will for us isn’t our individual victories—at least not now. It will be on that day when He gains His victory. Until then, let’s walk in fear of Him, believing that His coming victory is enough for us.


Ben Fan (@thatcoldbrewguy) is an M.A. Philosophy student at Talbot School of Theology and is the high school pastor at Renew Church OC. He is currently applying to PhD programs in philosophy because he hopes to engage academia as a mission field and is a big NBA fan, specifically the Spurs! He also sells cold brew @thatcoldbrewguy on Instagram and maintains a personal blog afeathersfall.wordpress.com.

 
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